It’s a common thing in the Martial Arts world for instructors to eventually branch off from their teachers and go on their own path. They create their own organisations/schools and before you know it there are so many different interpretations of that style - each being sold as ‘the right one’. It becomes confusing as to which one to follow.
It has been no different in the Krav Maga world. You’ll hear people saying often ‘Krav Maga isn’t a Martial Art’, yet it is vulnerable to the same political influences.
What you have to understand about all this is that all these different Krav Maga groups HAVE to find a way to show their point-of-difference. (If you aren’t familiar with this concept, it’s about a business or group or person having to make what they do enticing and unique to their market so they can be the ‘authority’ or ‘go to source’ in an industry).
In Krav Maga one of the points-of-difference often used is an instructor’s/school’s/organisation’s legitimacy. It often goes something like this: ‘Train with my organisation because we have ties to the source of Krav Maga’, or ‘Train with my organisation because our head instructor was Imi’s closest pupil’ or ‘Train with my organisation because we have ties to Israel’.
This is all well and good, and by no means does this article set to diminish these points-of-differences. If you have something you’re proud of and think would benefit the people who are with you then why not promote it?
However, there’s a line between 'promoting your letgitimacy because you really believe in its benefits' and 'using it as a tool to undermine other schools/organisations whom you think don’t fall into that category'.
So, the question that should come next is; how is ‘legitimacy’ defined, and who has a right to define it?
In Krav Maga there is no one governing body. There’s no committee that approves or disapproves instructors, schools, or organisations. Therefore (as much as many don’t want to read this), no current organisation has the agreed upon right to make ‘legitimacy’ claims against other schools, instructors and organisations.
So why does this happen? Why do you have these long-standing ‘biggest worldwide Krav Maga organisations’ internally telling their students and instructors to boycott the ‘illegitimate outsiders’? Why do they openly exclude these people from their training events and opportunities? Isn’t Krav Maga about making people safer?
When you are carrying the identity of being the ‘one true source of Krav Maga’, then you’ve got to be seen as that by making people aware of ‘illegitimate outsiders’. Once people are 'aware of it' , then BAM! the student/instructor becomes cautious because they trust in the people leading and teaching them.
If they say they’re illegitimate then they must be…..right?
Of course, as a student/instructor you want to make sure what you're learning is the right way, you want to make sure that the knowledge you’re passing onto your students will do them good and not bring them harm.
So how are you supposed to judge the legitimacy in Krav Maga without anyone else defining it for you?
1. The principles of Krav Maga: No matter who you learn from, if they’ve learned real Krav Maga then everything they teach will fall in-line with those principles. Discern it for yourself, and analyse it. If it isn’t aligned with those principles then there’s a good chance it isn’t Krav Maga.
2. Training experience: Who has your instructor learned from? Ask them to tell you about their training experience, get the names of the Instructors they've learned from and vet them out yourself. Ask to see their certificates or any proof of training.
3. Krav Maga philosophy: How does your instructor/organisation view Krav Maga? Does it align with the way you view self-defence training? Do you feel you will get the understanding from them that you're seeking? If they tell you Krav Maga is 'just an add-on', or 'MMA for the street', or 'a combination of Martial Arts' - chances are they don't really 'get' Krav Maga
Yes, there are unfortunately schools out there who say they teach Krav Maga and the instructor is a Kickboxer who watched a couple of Krav Maga videos, deciding they could teach it. Or, martial arts instructors who have done a 3 day instructor add-on course (if you have never trained in a Krav Maga class, you're're kidding yourself if you think you can really understand it and teach it). There’s NO denying that there are true illegitimate Krav Maga operations. What becomes the problem is when Instructors, who used to be part of the same organisations or schools you’ve learned from, are put in the same category.
Ask yourself this: If you’ve trained and taught for years and years as a Krav Maga instructor for your organisation, you’ve had full endorsement and ‘support’ and then one day something happens and you can’t teach under them anymore… what happens to all those years you put in, learning to be a good teacher and watching your students become more capable at keeping safe? Does that all suddenly disappear? Should that mean you're now an illegitimate outsider?
Look into these groups yourself. You shouldn’t be limited to who you train with, and you shouldn’t be closed off to it either. If you’re being told what to do and who to train with, look into the motivation behind that a little deeper (if you care to). You can choose to be happy and follow what you’re being told, or you can choose to be happy and discover the depth of knowledge that is shared between ALL Krav Maga Instructors and Schools.